Sunrise, FLA. – Nothing like a head injury puts the subject in perspective.
A reporter recently asked Jake Muzin if his second injury in about five weeks had made him think about life outside of hockey. The rude defenseman gave us a kind of reflexive smile while talking about something that scares us.
“Yes, for the first time you are thinking about life,” replied Muzzin. “Always. You’re always thinking about your health and what’s really important.
“But I feel good.”
Good to see.
Toronto Maple Leafs has been warning for six weeks to get Muzin back in action. But he didn’t join the boys on this critical four-game road trip just to route them for the press box.
“I understand that patience is important,” Muzzin continued. “I want to play with the boys, but there are more important things in life than this great game. But I still want to be a part of it. I want to play.”
He will “probably” play against the Florida Panthers on Tuesday, according to head coach Sheldon Keefe. Thursday in Dallas, of course.
“He is feeling well, feeling comfortable, confident that he has done what he needs to do and was a representative in practice to be able to be confident and comfortable in the playing situation,” Keefe said. “We were really looking forward to it.”
Which compels a rare debate in Lefland: to create seven healthy, faithful defenders and a five-game winning streak, who is sitting so Muzzin can play?
Externally, like diehard fans, Toronto’s best de pairings are a hot topic internally.
Morgan Riley and TJ Brody are untouchable. The “third pair” should also be new guy Mark Giordano.
Justin is the third-highest minute average of the Corps.
Ilya Libushkin actually hurts people.
And Timothy Lilzegren has been playing the best hockey of his life since joining Giordano’s buttocks.
We asked Giordano, outside of Leafs’ general superstars, who opened their eyes to the game with their team.
“The guy standing next to me is my partner, Lily,” Giordano said. (He also yelled at Ilya Mikheyev – but that’s another story.) “She’s great in position. He is always in a good place.
“These guys are crazy. I’ve seen it now in multiple teams that I’ve played. The young defenders who have been around since I first started the game seem to have a ton more politeness. It was more, you’re nervous to get games at this level. But he’s got great politeness, and he makes great reading locally. So it’s good to see him play. “
There are only 13 games left to tinker with combos and chemistry. (Don’t forget: Dynamic young Rasmus Sandin is repairing.)
“It simply came to our notice then. We talk about it every day. Muzin’s return will force us to change some things, “Kiev said. “We want to get some look in some different combination as soon as we get here.”
Giordano recalls that he and Brody have already built synergy from all those years, like the Calgary Flames, and now he’s got a quick fit with Lilzegren. But experienced people know the value of different options.
“We have to be prepared for anything,” Giordano said. “The biggest thing for me when you play with a new partner is communication.”
When Muzin returns, we hope he’ll be easy on the third pair, perhaps with his most familiar partner Hall. Lilzegren may be forced to take a break against heavy hitters like Florida and Dallas.
We also hope that the test will be developed.
Muzin is more important than where he plays, but what he does play is – for the blue line of the deepest lifts of this era.
“It simply came to our notice then. You first think of his family and what he means to his family. That’s all there is to it, “said Mitch Marner, who calls Muzin a brother.
“So, it’s great to see him work on the way back and feel comfortable enough to be there with us for skating. It’s a lot of fun to be around. He is a man who, when he is in our locker, when he says something, everyone listens. “